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Bestial: The Savage Trail of a True American Monster

3.68  ·  Rating Details  ·  581 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews

San Francisco, the 1920s. In an age when nightmares were relegated to the fiction of Edgar Allan Poe and distant tales of the Whitechapel murders, a real-life monster terrorized America. His acts of butchery have proved him one of history's fiercest madmen.

As an infant, Earle Leonard Nels
ebook, 384 pages
Published June 30th 2008 by Pocket Books (first published 1998)
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Jun 13, 2012 Juanita rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Harold Schechter is quite a writer. His research is awe-inspiring and the way he can turn a tale told by an outside narrator while cuing the reader as to the times of the era that he's writing about is truly a gift. He spends very little time on the setting up the scene and this makes the read more enjoyable while moving the story along. He can transform the view of the reader from the current times to a time most know very little about. Schechter makes the reader think about not just the serial ...more
May 16, 2013 Lizzie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sickos like me
A serial killer in the 20s who killed a lot of women, mostly landladies. It's beautifully researched but sadly not that interesting because he's no Ted Bundy; he's more in the retarded / head injury / bipolar mode. Why did he kill? Who the hell knows. His MO was to go to houses displaying a "room to let" sign, strangle the landlady as she showed him the room, then rape her, and shove the body into a closet or under the bed. He started in San Francisco and San Jose (which was interesting for me b ...more
Sep 04, 2012 Xeburnout rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed Harold Schechter's writing style. The John Douglas books are just packed with facts and insights which no one seems to be able to equal and on the other end of the spectrum is Truman Capote's In Cold Blood which reads like a novel and could be the best True Crime book ever. Schechter is a very good mix of the two. Considering, first, the time period it happened. It was long ago and being able to get together the facts and make it interesting for the reader is a gift. Secondly, N ...more
Robert Miller
The author painstakingly logs the murders of 22 victims (all women except one) occurring from February 20th, 1926 to June 10th, 1927. He tracks the killer's movements from Northern California, Washington, Iowa, Missouri, Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, Illinois, and finally, Winnipeg in Canada. The women, for the most part, are seeking renters to supplement their income during troubled economic times. Once safely inside the rooms he rented, he strangles them and inflicts brute and lethal blows ...more
Mar 06, 2015 Brenda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
1. I have never read a true crime book by Schechter before, but will consider reading more books by him.
2. I have never heard of Earle Nelson, "The Gorilla Man" or any of his crimes. After reading this very informative book, I come to 2 conclusions...1. I don't think he committed all the murders attributed to him, some were just so not right...can't really explain it, just, it didn't fit..and 2. Ted Bundy studied him, because he very much copied Earle, the bludgeoning, strangling and raping afte
Mar 17, 2008 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love how Schechter ties historical events into his stories. You can learn about history while enjoying a fascinating true crime tale.
3.5 stars:

Four years ago, if you had asked me whether or not I'd enjoy reading books about serial killers, I'd have said no. There's a big difference between reading horror, and knowing it's fiction, and reading about the suffering of a real person. But it's really not very different from reading any other non-fiction story where someone suffers or dies. It caught me by surprise when I read The Devil in the White City. The 'Death Castle' of H.H. Holmes intrigued me, so I read Schechter's Deprave
Mar 30, 2014 Geri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story depicts the depravity of a serial killer. Since all of this was during the 1920's communication was lacking among the police forces of other towns and states. It isn't surprising he was able to get away with so much.

It's too bad Earle Nelson (Ferral) never confessed to his crimes. He maintained his innocence to the gallows.
Erin Bodishbaugh
Harold Schechter isn't where you turn when you want deep insight or thoughtful, even-handed non-fiction -- this book's legitimacy was immediately undercut by the fact that Schechter named the Night Stalker as "Richard Rodriguez". His books are like 300-page tabloids that, while diligently researched, make heavy use of the "What if..." factor, as well as a dramatic reenactment style of writing that sometimes puts words in the player's mouths. He's an expert at knowing what his readers want: blood ...more
A fast and eventful read.
I really appreciate and enjoy how Schechter ties in the current events of the time with the unveiling of the main story. Great word choices throughout too.

Ir's fascinating to think about and contrast how much as changed from the twenties - a few examples that come to mind; the commonality of the boarding house, the trusting of neighbors, how a man could pick up work from one job to the next and so on ...a world without TV or a phone in each home. It really made me thin
May 04, 2012 Gloria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Harold Schechter's "Bestial" is first and foremost an entertaining journey. Through the lives of the victims, the killer, and the authorities who investigate the crimes, Schechter unfolds a drama that is extremely fascinating. The book not only informs the reader about a forgotten serial killer, but relates the difficulty police had in connecting crimes and coordinating forces two catch a nomadic criminal. Highly recomended for anyone who enjoys a trip to the unsettling outskirts of human existe ...more
♥ Marlene♥
On Friday, May 25, 2007 I wrote about this book:

Finished reading this book last night. As always Mister Schechter makes this period alive for you. He kept me interested from page 1 till the last.

I have read a lot of books by this author now. Only one was very disappointing, (Fatal) but all the others, like Deranged, Deviant Depraved were great.
Now I need to get my hands on Fiend.
May 19, 2015 Leila rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've come to expect great story telling from Schechter and he didn't let me down. Earle Nelson was such a strange man and it was very enjoyable reading about the 1920s way of life. Definitely a page turner.
It was a little slow in places, but mostly a very interesting book. The story is well put together using historical documents and newspapers. It would have been interesting to find out more about Earle's poor wifve, and why she did what she did. Recommend for true crime buffs that enjoy history.
Paul Coombs
Jan 02, 2013 Paul Coombs rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A frightening account of a killer without conscience. Harold Schechter takes us on a haunting journey through the darkest place of the human mind; a territory unknown to most people. leaving no bodies unturned; he spares no gruesome details, that leaves our own minds disturbed.

Heather Rhodes
This was interesting. An enjoyable read.
Sep 01, 2011 Alicia is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this by accident for my Kindle, but gonna give it a go. I do enjoy True Crime, but I thought I was buying a book about H.H. Holmes. Oh, well!
Aug 28, 2012 Chuck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
A gripping account of one of the first American serial killers, a hulking man who also had a Houdini-like ability to escape custody.
Oct 06, 2008 Shannon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I did not realize how long they have been using fingerprint analysis to find criminals.
Jan 17, 2015 Flexanimous rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
A sensationalised, yet slightly plodding true crime book.
Could have been about 100 pages shorter - was a bit dry, although meticulously researched.
Apr 15, 2009 Melissa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Difficult read...Schecter has other books that are definitely more interesting.
May 08, 2011 Susanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Title should read *North* American monster, since he killed in Canada, too.
I couldn't believe how convoluted and boring this ended up being.
Oct 22, 2012 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
am currently reading...heavy material....but insightful
Another interesting deviant.
very good.
Jenefer marked it as to-read
Feb 13, 2016
Miriam E. Meier
Miriam E. Meier rated it it was amazing
Feb 12, 2016
Fishface marked it as to-read
Feb 12, 2016
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Aka Jon A. Harrald (joint pseudonym with Jonna Gormley Semeiks)

Harold Schechter is a true crime writer who specializes in serial killers. He attended the State University of New York in Buffalo, where he obtained a Ph.D. A resident of New York City, Schechter is professor of American literature and popular culture at Queens College of the City University of New York.

Among his nonfiction works are
More about Harold Schechter...

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